Only an Economic Social Political Philosophical Religious Mind-Change of Shattering Proportion Can Save Us
There is a material/non-material cosmic inner/outer dimensionality to this planet and within an enfolding/unfolding order. Our Homo sapiens civilization in its present form socially, politically, philosophically, religiously and economically is not meeting the test of being a part of that order. How can we become a part of it? Only a mind-change of shattering proportion can save us.
A 1972 World Bank report referred to our dependence on fossil fuels leading to a repeat of an extinction event like that of the Permian Triassic. Then in 1992 1,700 scientists warned us about the catastrophic impact of human actions on the environment and predicted the same high Permian Triassic temperatures. That report was updated in 2017 by 15,000 scientists when they expressed even greater concern. The late renowned physicist Stephen Hawking in that same year predicted that the planet will turn into, as he described it; “a sizzling fireball.”
Today, the general public remains quiescent; expressing only limited concern. This has been particularly noticeable among the America population. So a question is arising among the “those” who do have concern: What is the reason for this insouciance? Why is it so many of us are only able to focus on the immediacy of our existence? Is it that as a species we are inherently neurotically ethologically incapable of understanding our future “reality”? If so, are our limitations about to destroy us?
As we attempt to answer this question we need to explore why these last several thousand years we have responded to the world around us the way we have and why we continue to do so. This essay will examine the power of religious belief as a driver of that response with emphasis on Abrahamic religious belief. From its Hebraic/Christian/Roman origins to its transformation during the Enlightenment to its spread of Western Colonialism to its post War I and II global influence, this belief system has had and continues to have a strong hold on the formation of the world’s political, legal, social and economic institutions. Other forms of religious belief have too and Eastern in particular, but Abrahamic to date far more so than those others.
To a large extent it reflects and reinforces the way many in the world think and act.Some thinking/acting is positive, some self-destructive. That self-destructiveness ranges from overall societal self-destruction (War) to planetary (Nature). So here are the questions: What are the underlying faults within this belief system? Can they be identified and eliminated? Can other belief systems that more successfully counter these faults be brought into the equation?
Keeping this in mind we will focus here specifically on the interaction between Abrahamic belief and planetary sustainability. We could bring into the discussion other belief systems and present them with the same questions in this same context but the fact is the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim belief systems have been prime movers behind very large segments of modern civilizational behavior. As such, in their original form they have been and continue to be a molder of large areas of world thought and culture.
What are the inherent strengths of Abrahamic religious belief as it has molded world culture? What are the inherent weaknesses and dangers?
A weakness/danger in the Abrahamic mix is an underlying acceptance of “the end of time.” Many today of the Abrahamic faiths believe in the coming of an Apocalypse.The implication is an “ending” of human civilization. (1.5 billion Muslims have their concept of aher al-zaman; the Arabic expression for apocalypse, translated literally as the end of time)
Humanity today is demanding that religions leaders from these traditions move away from their apocalyptic belief and toward belief in human “Renewal;” so defined as our civilization in its entirety moving toward a symbiotic relationship with all Nature that allows both our species and all other organic and inorganic matter to recycle and renew.
Many throughout the world from all forms of belief including many from the Abrahamic are coming to this realization. They have concluded that from the “Big Bang” onward there is a transcendental intelligence that has been underlying the passage of all life and nonlife on our planet toward higher and higher complexity. This understanding has come about largely as a result of knowledge gained from scientific discoveries as well as advances in theological and philosophical thought.
Our discussion would not be complete without reference to the rational thought that came about during the Enlightenment Period. Among many Jews and Christians there was a reconsideration of past religious belief. However, parts of Judaism and Christianity remained Orthodox. Islam did not partake in the European Enlightenment. In 1299 its past considerable intellectualism was encapsulated under the Ottoman Empire.
Two new forms of thought emerged. One gave up on any form of “GOD” direction at all. Those with this form of thought are now called Atheistic Reductionists. They eliminate GOD altogether from the human evolutionary process. They view the cosmos as devoid of subjectivity and meaning. What is just is; no more than matter and energy. Another form of thought stayed with the idea of a GOD direction and transcendental GOD complexity, but not as originally scripturally understood.It held to the belief that our species is under the influence of a synchronous power and that the purpose of our lives is to be integral to its implicit planetary/cosmic purpose. Today those with this form of thought see themselves as the responsible party to pursue that higher purpose. Also they see our species as failing in this regard.
It has allowed them to continue to believe that this power has an awareness of their own actions and inactions. They do not agree with Albert Einstein as quoted below.
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”
As interesting as this Spinoza/Einstein argument is, it avoids the pressing question of whether there is cosmic “purpose” to human presence on Planet Earth and in the Universe. Are you and I “nothing;” just born one day and sometime later dead?
All of human civilization is now being forced to face the reality of an ecologically disintegrating planet with humans on it searching not for solutions restricted to their religious or philosophical past, but built on new ideas within a thought process reaching beyond; measuring its value against a new form of thought that encompasses the mystery of all matter and non-matter in the context of human/planetary evolution, consonance – and Homo sapiens survival.
Why is it that so many are not able to recognize this? Why are these last eight thousand years failing us? Why is enlightenment rational thought with all is logical rational innuendo failing? The answer can be found in our “Culture.” Past belief determines culture.We are each of us in a sense ensnared by our culture. It is a powerful impedimentworking against acceptance of new forms of thought. And here we are talking about the commonality of world-wide culture. The Canadian futurologist Ruben Nelson writes:
“All cultures, including our own in the 21st Century, take for granted that their construction of the world is the real world. The culture that forms us is not only comfortable, it appears as being natural. It is the real way the real world is. Life as we know it is comfortable because our concave fits the convex of our culture.”
Most citizens of the world today accede to the existing foundational concave/convex mold that encases them. This encasement begins some months after birth and then is reinforced with maturity by what is called social polarization. For most there is no escape. It includes those living in the mold who think of themselves as not being in the mold. It also includes those who think they have moved away from the mold. For example; “Liberal” Pope Francis in his 2015 Laudio Si’ stayed in the mold when he spoke about environmental degradation. He left out reference to one of the most deadly planetary present and future dangers; namely exponential population growth. This can be said about the conclusions of the members at the 2015 COP21 meetings in Paris. There was heightened awareness of ecological problems, but no urgent call for radical change in thepolitical/social/economicsystems in their home countries. (The same can be said for subsequent meetings)
Nevertheless, and on a note of optimism, there have been past examples of a “breaking out” from the mold. Abrahamic belief of GOD residing in some other dimension above and beyond Planet Earth is one of them.
Where did the remote Abrahamic GOD understanding come from? In Egypt and in the Levant four five six thousand years before the Common Era there appeared what can be called a “Rorschach test god,” that is an anthropomorphic god-personification of the human mind; a metaphorical reflection of the best and the worst in each of us. And that God was not here on Planet Earth. HE was up in the Heavens.
As the Nation of Israel moved forward in time, the definition did not change. Their GOD remained anthropomorphic. He expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Then, in anger He brought on a great flood showing humanity that He would punish those who disappointed Him. Years later with the advent of Christianity, He would sacrifice His own son as expiation for the sin of man. Some years after that, He would in the Book of Revelation outline in gruesome detail how He will destroy all of humanity, allowing only a select few to join Him in eternity. Then in the seventh century with the advent of Islam, He continued to be the same fearful, loving, controlling, punishing, judgmental god hidden far off in the heavens.
This Abrahamic understanding of God has led to a sinister planetary outcome. Many Christians and Muslims believe that we are all sinful depraved human beings in search of salvation and that it will come only to a select few at the end of times (Apocalypse) when GOD will bring a fiery end to this planet. Today, those who so believe further reason; if my God will destroy our planet, why should I be concerned about nature and the environment, why should I even listen to the dire predictions of the scientists? Who cares? It is all in God’s hands anyway.
And as for the Planet itself; those ancient biblical texts had said a plentiful Earth was given by God for man’s use and stewardship. And the word “stewardship,” as translated from those Hebraic texts had left a lot of wiggle room!
In order for human life to continue on this planet, these orthodox believers need to rid ourselves of how their YHWH is defined. If they do not, the dark side of their Freudian psychotic intentionality will become our planet’s future reality. Freud’s “id” will be proven to be their controller.
Finding a way out of this dilemma will call for a breakthrough in 21st century religious thought at all levels West and East. It is especially relevant for those above mentioned Abrahamic believers. This is in fact occurring with some of them. But not fast enough.
Breakthroughs in thought have occurred in the past. Events force abandonment of existing belief. This occurred with the presence of Jesus of Nazareth and his opposition to Temple orthodoxy and Roman hegemony. But, as is often the case with religion; the message then becomes ensnared in creeds and sacraments and rituals and political legal structures on the social side, leaving only vestiges of the original thought. This is typical of all such breakthroughs, Eastern religions included. The purity of the original thought becomes conscripted by adherents who then use that thought for their own political and secular advantage.
The first sign of a world-wide inter religious cognitive breakthrough is now appearing on the horizon. It is being defined by many individuals as an emerging cosmic consciousness revealing an underlying “Implicate Order” to the Cosmos. With recent advancements in the physical sciences, and particularly in the areas of quantum physics and cosmology, many scientists and nonscientists alike are beginning to recognize that there is such a thing as planetary/cosmic order. They are making strides in attempting to further define it. David Bohm, the great theoretical physicist and colleague of Albert Einstein, spoke of it in terms of everything animate and inanimate having as he described it; “an inseparable quantum interconnectedness” in a continuing process of cosmic “enfoldment” and “unfoldment.” Breakthroughs in thought such as these are marking the beginning of a transition from our present state of planetary ecological ignorance and dysfunction to an understanding of how we humans can live in a state of planetary ecological accommodation.
This can even be described in Abrahamic terms as the beginning of a “Revelation,” one where Homo sapiens is about to step out of its earthly secular shoes and into its cosmic non secular ones. Such a transition implies the need for detachment by way of a restructuring of our world political, social, economic and religious thought. It calls for a change in the human behavior that has been inculcated in world society by our institutions so that our species can move toward Bohm’s “enfoldment” and “unfoldment.”
Can it be achieved? Humanity will have to view the planet and the continuance of all forms of life on it in an entirely different way from the way it has in the past. At the same time, it will have to abandon much of its past doctrinaire Abrahamic religious belief, as to a large extent that has been the glue pressing our species onto its past concave/convex asymmetric perception of reality, an asymmetric perception now become contradictory to our sustainability on Planet Earth.
Such a movement toward this “Implicate Order” was evident in the thought process of Jesus of Nazareth. It can be observed in some of the writings of Post Enlightenment philosophers who openly challenged the doctrinaire Christian religious orthodoxy of the time. A breakthrough came with the American “in-depth-psychologists” such as F.W.H. Meyers and William James.Their challenge to the European school of reductionist behavioristic psychology soon gained momentum and led to the work of Carl Jung in Switzerland and others around the world in the form of a post-empirical behaviorist movement opening the field of transpersonal depth psychology.
Can we find the answer for a better world on a habitable planet where everyone is offered a good life? The idea of a non materialistic yet materially sufficient life built on inner communion and other dimensionality goes far back in time. It has played an important role in many forms of religious thought. We see it today in monastic Christianity. Many Eastern religious beliefs emphasize it. The lesson here is that humans can find happiness without materialism. We don’t need jet planes, cruise ships, gas guzzling cars, million dollar condos to be happy.
The discovery in 1945 of the “lost” Gospel of Thomas at Nag Hammadi, Egypt presents a Jesus strongly influenced by such esoteric thought. There is speculation among many scholars today that in his formative years he may have had contact with highly sophisticated intellectual Roman as well as Hebraic Rabbinical thought in Sepphoris; a model Roman city/town about five miles from where his family lived in Nazareth. (Rabbinical ceremonial ritual baths just discovered).Jesus may even have experienced Greek theater there. Father and son may have spent time plying his father’s trade. (conjecture that his father was not a cabinet maker but a scaffold builder) So it is possible that Jesus as a youth could have spent his early years exposed to a wide range of thought.
Another possible influence on Jesus should be mentioned here. We do have some solid evidence of this. During the short period of his ministry, Qumran Essene thought in one form or other existed throughout a wide geographic area beyond the isolated colony at Qumran. It may have been an influence on Jesus during his formative years. In fact his cousin, John the Baptist, may have at some point been influenced by Essene thought. It was anti-Temple and in some respects what we would call esoteric. To quote from Stephan A. Hoeller in his book Jung and the Lost Gospels Insights into the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library:
“There was only one organization in existence that could have served as the foundation for this rapidly developing structure, and it was the order of the Essenes. Centered in its monastic headquarters by the Dead Sea, but extending all over Judea and in all likelihood into Egypt, Rome and Asia Minor, the Essene organization served as a ready-made matrix on which the new Christian association of communities could be built.”
However one frames the mindset of those in and around Jerusalem at that time ‑ and later on as Paul found when he finally reached Rome and came upon an already established Jesus community, there was an undercurrent of esoteric Essene as well as neo Platonic Greek and Alexandrian thought existing beyond the doctrinal interior Temple Judaic Hebraic and it had taken hold. It was laying the groundwork for the words of Jesus and their subsequent rapid spread.
The important observation is this: Now in our present age as it was at the time of Jesus in the Roman period, and before him in the West and East, and then during the Enlightenment; a new foundation is beginning to form. In some ways it incorporates traditional thought and in others moves away from it. Another important observation; it is a thought movement that is world-wide and not just confined to one part of the globe. (Eastern thought is becoming all-important as is seen with Confucianism in China)
Many all over the globe are joining in with the understanding that there is an all-inclusive material/non-material cosmic inner/outer dimensionality to this planet and within an enfolding/unfolding order. Many are also concluding that our civilization in its present form globally; socially, politically, philosophically, religiously and economically is not meeting the test of being a part of that order.
How do we become at one with it? How do we become a part of cosmic inner/outer consciousness?
A word of warning; Jesus spoke in conditional terms of our achieving it. In the Gospel of Thomas he defined its conditionality. He said: When you come to know yourselves. This implies self-realization. Jesus was calling for no less than a metamorphosis of human thought on an inner-individual level in order for The Kingdom of God (his metaphorical here and now expression of it) to be revealed.
Observations on the work of the modern intellectual Richard Tarnas show this same conditionality. Tarnas uses the word “participation” in the context of the “need” to partake in a unity waiting to be realized. He calls for this through contact with the creative process within “Nature.” He writes in his book ThePassion of the Western Mind:
“From within its own depths the imagination directly contacts the creative process within nature, realizes that process within itself, and brings nature’s reality to conscious expression.”
We see the same train of thought and how to bring nature’s reality to conscious expression from Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas:
(77) I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there
(41) Whoever has something in his hand will receive more, and whoever has nothing will be deprived of even the little that he has
An acceptance of this planetary understanding can make the difference between an ecologically disintegrating planet and one that can continue to sustain human life. Unfortunately most of the world is living and thinking well out of the Jesus/Tarnas mind frame.
Only a mind-change of shattering magnitude can save our species from extinction. Friedrich Nietzsche warned us about the dangers of our present insouciance. He wrote in The Gay Science:
“The madman when he went into the marketplace to tell everyone the news of God’s death; those going about their business missed the significance. Nor did they recognize the extent to which they themselves were implicated.”
We need to understand that we are those there in that marketplace. We are the implicated.
Matthew Fox, Roman Catholic scholar, speaks to this same theme in his book A Way To God Thomas Merton’s Spiritual Journey when he quotes Thomas Berry discussing the ideas of Thomas Merton.
“There is a certain futility in the efforts being made, truly sincere, dedicated, and intelligent efforts to remedy our environmental devastation simply by achieving renewable sources of energy and by reducing the deleterious impact of the industrial world. The difficulty is that the natural world is seen primarily for human use, not as a mode of sacred presence primarily to be communed with in wonder and beauty and intimacy. In our present attitude, the natural world remains a commodity to be bought and sold, not a sacred reality to be venerated….”
Can humanity change? Can it understand that this planet is a sacred reality to be venerated? There are signs that it can. In recent years implosion of the biosphere adverse to human survival has become more visible. World thought is becoming more and more aware of this. The internet is accelerating this realization. Larger and larger numbers are demanding that something be done. Many are coming to the realization that the natural world is not a commodity to be bought and sold; it is a sacred reality to be venerated. And among these many is the growing realization that our economic, social, political, philosophical and religious institutions do not recognize this sacredness.
Yet, there is a dark side to the human mind with no interest in this sacred reality. It has no interest in our future planetary survival. It is a concave/convexmind-set that ensnares many; rich and poor; privileged and non privileged. It dominates our economic, social, political, philosophical and religious institutions today.
This brings us to the most urgent question now facing our species. Can we escape from our dark side?
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, economics, theology and history. He has written four books. The fourth has just been published. It is about the necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift for human survival.
Other Suggested Readings:
LIVES IN THE PEACE MOVEMENT John Scales Avery June 15, 2019
Lithium: The Next Suicidal Solution To The Fossil Fuel Climate Crisis
in Climate Change Irwin Jerome June 16, 2019